Friday, August 06, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Hayop Ka!

According to Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, dogs and cats living together were a sign of the apocalypse. Nevertheless, that is the plan for feline Nimfa Dimaano. The only question is whether she will choose her burly working-class lover (he’s a real mutt) or a rich greyhound in Avid Liongoren’s animated feature, Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

These might be talking animals, but they definitely aren’t for kids. Liongoren’s send-up of Filipino telenovelas is quite sexually frank in its language (but the action on screen is mostly PG-13—mostly). True to its genre,
Hayop Ka (meaning: “you animal!,” a frequent telenovela exclamation) involves class-straddling romantic relationships. Dimaano starts the film in a shacked-up with dirt-poor but ultra-macho Roger, whom her best friendemy not so secretly carries a torch for, but she is tiring of his crude manners and lack of ambition.

When playboy-industrialist Inigo Villanueva drops by the perfume counter where she works, it is sort of like
Pretty Woman, but without the prostitution. Granted, Villanueva is a bit arrogant, but he is trying to break a union for the good of the economy, so he obviously isn’t all bad. Nevertheless, Dimaano is reluctant to fully jump into a relationship with him, because of her deep-rooted class consciousness.

What unfolds is pure soap opera, because that is the whole point. Anyone with any familiarity with any nation’s sudsy melodramas will be able to get the jokes here—and they are even funnier coming from furry animals. In fact, the film’s character designs are genuinely appealing. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a Roger or Nimfa plushy toy? Once you strip away the sex jokes, Manny Angeles & Pauly Olivenza’s screenplay is relatively simple, but the resilience of Dimaano and the complexity of Villanueva give it added dimension.

Hayop Ka
came from Rocketsheep, the same Filipino animation studio that produced Saving Sally. That earlier film was more engaging on an emotional level, but the two films together really attest to the studio’s range. This is just a fun, saucy movie—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Recommended for fans of naughty animation, Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story screens as an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.